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'Fight for what you believe in:' James Henson is bringing The Young Black Panther Party to Lansing

Posted at 7:36 AM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 09:28:46-04

LANSING, Mich. —

While some kids looked to Superman and Batman as heroes, James Henson idolized the Black Panthers

Not the comic book character Black Panther, but members of the Black militant group from the 1960s like Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

After the death of George Floyd, Henson, who is 22, decided to start The Young Black Panther Party in Lansing.

“There's a lot of people in the community that don't know who the Black Panthers is, or are, and I want to bring that hope within them,” said Henson.

The original Black Panther Party was founded Seale and Newton in 1966. The group focused on Black power and self-defense. So does Henson’s group.

Henson wanted to give hope to young Black people in his community and teach them how to protect themselves. On Saturdays, he teaches martial arts by the river trail.

We have to build, we have to do everything we can to thrive in order to survive," he said.

Members in the community support Henson, Leo Brown, a barber from Mo-Cuts said the Young Black Panther is setting a standard. " These kids really need to know about those days and about that unity that we used to have for our community. You know, protecting our own people."

James Henson teaching martial arts
James Henson teaching martial arts

Henson’s mission goes beyond self-defense. He wants to introduce his community to clean eating. With the help of The Fledge, a Lansing community center, he plans to create gardens in Black communities.

James Henson watering plants
James Henson watering plants

So far, Henson says he has 600 vegetable plants growing and is just waiting for them to sprout before giving them to members in the community.

Creating gardens in Black communities

Henson is also purchasing copies of a book called "African American Slave Medicine" to introduce his community to natural remedies.

“There's a mentality from back then, that Black people do not feel pain, or we just have a natural, very high pain tolerance," he said. "And that's not true. So why not create something that can help our people thrive?”

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